Questions My Mother Can't Answer
nytheatre.com review by Josephine Cashman
August 15, 2010
As the lights go down, the audience hears the sounds of a woman walking in high heels on the sidewalk in the city, and then the screech of brakes and then SMACK! as a car hits something. We first meet Andrea in orthopedic shoes, feeling the physical and emotional ramifications of the accident. Walking hurts, living hurts, and her marriage is also beginning to hurt.
Andrea Caban's one-woman show, Questions My Mother Can't Answer evolves as she embarks on a journey to recover and discover herself, looking for answers (to what, she isn't sure until the end of the play). Andrea starts interviewing women older than herself because they are open, honest, and as Andrea says, "All the veils of denial have been kind of washed away."
The audience gets to meet some unique and inspiring characters. There are the spiritual healers: Lisa, gruff and sympathetic, and Gay, wistful and a little simple. Then there's the ballroom dancer Mary—born in Morocco—an independent woman who becomes a fierce and awe-inspiring mother, and Genevieve—a stranger Andrea meets on the subway and takes to dinner. There are other women, too, and they all smartly come to life as Caban embodies each woman's quirks, voices, and movements. The sound design by Marcelo Anez is rich and superb, and the direction by Rachel Eckerling is deft and quietly powerful. They clearly work very well with each other, and with Caban, the writer and performer.
Andrea asks each woman questions about their childhood, love, marriage, divorce, and the relationships they have or had with their parents and children. Each answer leads Andrea further and further towards a heartfelt and moving conversation with Betty, her mother, a character who has been in the background all along, patiently waiting for her chance to really speak to her daughter.
Caban's performance is honest, funny, and frank as she tries to decide if life is better in sexy heels or sensible, comforting orthopedic shoes. The women she speaks with give the audience a thoughtful view into how a woman's role has changed in the last 60 years. A few women have had the marvelous courage to candidly tell their stories—they have trusted Caban, and the result is a wonderful and thought-provoking performance.